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Evil Genes & Personality Disorders

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Evil Genes & Personality Disorders

Show Archive
Date: Saturday - November 29, 2008
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Barbara Oakley

Prof. Barbara Oakley discussed the minds of truly evil people and explained how history has been influenced by the combination of genes and the environment. "Genes do matter for personalities and they especially can matter for nasty personalities," she said, lamenting the trend in the academic world which tries to dissuade looking at the genetic component behind personalities.

One such genetically influenced trait that Oakley explored at length was borderline personality disorder (BPD), which she described as a "disorder of the emotions. You don't have the emotional toolkit that other people have." She detailed some of the signs of BPD such as a long history of troubled relationships involving unhealthy idolization of the partner, an inability to accept that there is something wrong with one's personality, and mood swings followed by deep regret. It is this last aspect that may prove most dangerous, according to Oakley, because when it is combined with the traits of psychopathy, "you can do some of the really devious things that 'borderlines' can do and you have no later regret."

Examining the personality traits of evil people, Oakley said "if you look at dictators, a common thread is that they have really, really good memories." She explained that such strong recollection can be used both to overpower underlings as well as come across as charming and witty in other situations. Oakley also talked about some of the cruel actions of her sister, who suffered from a personality disorder. She made a point of discussing them because her sister "didn't go around killing people, but she did really disrupt people's lives," noting that "this kind of phenomenon exists at every level, in families or a local church or in politics, in business, everywhere."

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